Monday, 28 June 2010

A Productive Day (the Reader's Digest version)

I collected some hatching eggs, including Barbu D'Uccles, from my friend Jane -

I sheared the lambs, under the Nigel's expert (and patient) tutelage -

Nigel tells me mules (hybrid sheep) are the easiest to shear, temperament-wise. No prizes for guessing which breed he tells me are the worst.

It's a sweaty old job, but very rewarding.

Remind me I said that when I have to shear a whole flock.

I saved the shearling wool and put it in a pillowcase. I popped it in thewashing machine (twice) and have some pretty clean wool -

It's no good for spinning, but I can use it to make pillows, to stuff the cushion covers embroidered by my mother and grandmother.

I gave the guys a hand to run in a few sheds of pheasant chicks, as some rain is on the way. Between us we caught a few escapees and put them back inside to warm up -

While I was dealing with the lambs and the pheasants, the chickens in the incubator hatched -

They're Orpington crosses, for Simon the Gardener. He's had two chicks to placate his broody hen, and I've had three to raise under Barbara the Silkie. She's already tucked them in for the night under her feathery bottom.

She was sitting on three eggs I thought were addled but two seemed like they might potentially hatch. Grandma Brown went broody a few days ago so I've just moved them to her care. We'll wait and see.

On the other end of the chicken spectrum, we processed another couple of meat birds. We could only do two, before the sun set on us -

Tomorrow is our last hatch of pheasant chicks for this year. After hatching, I hope it will be a quiet afternoon.


Poppy Cottage said...

Bottom!! Missed the shearing!! Looks like you did a fantastic job. That wool looks like it didn't come out too bad. Why no good for spinning?

Paula said...

The chicks are pretty darn cute.

I love that you show the, um, unpleasant tasks with the others, although my knees are killing me at the sight of you hunkering like that. But then, my back was killing me at the sight of you shearing sheep.

I'd be envious of your set up if it weren't for the physical demands it makes...

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - Sorry about that! We could have used your expert sheep wrangling - they're fighters!

Perhaps a skilled spinner might use the shearling but the staple is pretty short. But it's soft, natural and holds its shaped when compressed, so I thought cushions. It washed up well in the machine, but I still have to pick the vegetable matter out.

Paula - I'm lucky to have a strong, problem-free back (touching wood now..) but my right shoulder and left elbow are sore this morning. The day I turned 40, I felt every joint in my body get old all at once.

As least when your older you have the wisdom to work smarter, not harder, and I rely more on my problem-solving skills and understanding of the concept of leverage. And machinery when I can!

Maria said...

Using leverage is all well and good, but I still think I will leave the breakfast pie-eating to you rather than myself, as I wouldn't work it off sitting in the office!!
I'm glad your shearing went well, and it does look like really nice wool.

Kate said...

Is that how you do your chickens? I don't get much practice, so my technique is fairly unrefined. Are you slaughtering or have you just slaughtered them in that picture? The cords seem rather long. They don't struggle too much in that position? If so, I could see blood going everywhere. Or are they already stunned?

I've used killing cones above a wheelbarrow full of mulch for the garden. My system needs some tweaking, but it does keep them still, and the blood goes to good use, and neatly too. If the wheelbarrow is full, there's nothing to clean up afterward, and I like having them high enough that I can stand to work. What I haven't figured out is an effective way of stunning them before they go in the cones.

Jennifer Montero said...

Kate - We are ALL about unrefined here, but we do our utmost to be humane. We'd just slaughtered those two before Mike took the picture.

I loop the string around its feet while still holding it upright. I stun each bird with a heavy bit of wood - a sharp blow to the temple.

I hold the stunned but flapping bird steady while Mike uses a sharp knife to cut through the roof of the mouth into the brain. Then I can let the bird hang and the blood collects in the tub.

I put the collected blood on my shrubs and young trees too. But I'm going to try your idea of hanging them over a wheelbarrow full of mulch - much more efficient!

We just rigged up a fencepost hung between the trucks' tailgates, to do these birds quickly. The string is just leftover baling twine from our hay bales. A friend usually plucks them for us on a machine, but he's away.

It's on my to do list to make a killing cone which would be far easier. Have you ever tried one of those humane dispatchers? Hand held or wall-mounted? I assume you still stun the bird before using it but I don't know.

I think there are designs to make your own electric stunners available on the web, but I'm dubious of electricity in the hands on non-electricians (like me).

To be honest the blow is fatal 9 out of 10 times, and the sticking is just insurance, and a means to get the blood out. We don't bleed game birds. I simply hit a pheasant and I can check it was a fatal blow by touching its eye. If it doesn't blink I know it's gone on.

Kate said...

Yeah, I try to be humane too. Unfortunately, the stunning technique that was recommended to me ended up breaking one hen's neck. I didn't like that, but as I said, I don't get much practice, so it's hard to figure out what's effective. I may try a heavy piece of pipe next time.

I made our killing cone (I should have used the singular before) from a piece of scrap linoleum I fished out of a dumpster on a construction site plus gaffer's tape, then nailed it to a 2x4 to hang it above the wheelbarrow. It's crude and ugly, but it does the job. At least for old laying hens. I don't think it'll cut it for our turkey.

Jennifer Montero said...

Kate - Brilliant idea using scrap linoleum to make the cone! I'm certainly going to build a frame that fits in my wheelbarrow to hold the cone (when I get around to making one).

I think whatever technique works for you, which you can carry out quickly and confidently, is going to be the most humane way. I don't have any experience of turkeys so you will have to let me know what works when you've harvested yours.

Maybe turkeys can be my new species for next year? (psst...definitely get the quail...they're SO easy to look after...)

Jennifer Montero said...

Maria - If you don't eat pie for breakfast, what do you eat?!? Acceptable alternatives in this house are cold pizza, french toast, last night's curry leftovers.